COULD YOU SURVIVE ON THE BREADLINE?
Wednesday, 8.30pm, SBS
Unlike her fellow high-profile Australians taking part in SBS’ immersive poverty experience, Could You Survive on the Breadline?, a nine-day test of the practicality of welfare payments, Julie Goodwin has lined up for the dole, for real.
Julie Goodwin accepts the breadline challengeCredit:
“It was a long time ago and I was very young, but still, I found that quite dehumanising,” says the original MasterChef winner. “I was literally on the dole queue and I remember feeling mortified because of the stigma that surrounds that, and because of this attitude of, ‘Why don’t you just get a job?,’ or, ‘Try harder, you’ll do better’. Like all of those ideas that are ignorant, they are based in privilege.”
Goodwin’s journey on the program differs slightly from that of NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong and Sky News commentator Caleb Bond. Whereas they move in with people to experience the daily grind of living on welfare, Goodwin stays alone in crisis accommodation in the Greater Western Sydney suburb of Campbelltown. At the age of 50, she represents the demographic most vulnerable to homelessness.
“Women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia. We’ve got a reasonable idea of what we think poverty or homelessness looks like but, in reality, it’s a lot more commonplace. People that you know, that you may not be fully aware of their circumstances, are just one pay cheque away from an eviction notice. For me, that’s what this program is about – just really listening and understanding what other people go through.”
In the program, Goodwin joins a community food rescue operation on their regular delivery run, and spends time in the home of a couple who couldn’t survive without such food charities.
“It never occurred to me that people on a carer’s pension would not be able to survive on that. It’s inhumane. Stevie and Ron are what you might consider a regular family. They’ve worked all their lives. They’ve bought their house. They’ve raised a family, and then Ron finds himself with this terrible, debilitating illness. But between the two of them, the pensions that they collect don’t feed them. So even though they don’t have a mortgage or rent to pay, with all the medical expenses and the inability to go out and get paid work, relying on that carer’s pension still sees them needing the services of Foodbank in order to put food in the cupboard.”
From what sparse ingredients are available, Goodwin puts her famous skills to use cooking the couple creamy mushroom pasta. Just as with the meagre meals she prepares in a microwave for herself in her lonely digs, it looks pretty appetising. But she estimates it would take her “no time at all” to give up and buy fast food, if she were truly having to get by on welfare.
“For me, food’s always been more than just nourishment. It’s about gathering people together around the dinner table and cooking for them. That’s one of the things about poverty that’s so isolating. Not only can you not afford nice food, but you’re probably not that inclined to invite people over for dinner.”
Goodwin intends to continue using her profile to raise awareness of food security. She agreed to participate in MasterChef: Foodie vs Favourites next year, despite her worries that the competition has become much stiffer. She warned producers, “You know I wouldn’t even make it through the audition stage now, don’t you?″.
“One of the things MasterChef taught me was to open my mind up to opportunities and possibilities. One of the great things for me about [the new season] is, it will give me a bit of leverage in the space of social justice.”
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